Christopher Warrington, MDiv
A Weary World Rejoices
Merry Christmas and Happy Advent! I want to ask a difficult question on this blessed holiday, "What has the Church ever done for you?" Put that question in the back of your mind and think on it as you read through this letter.
Before we get to the question above, let's talk about this word, "Advent". "Advent" is thrown around a lot during the Christmas season, especially by the Church. But, what does "advent" mean? Over the centuries, this word has grown to be primarily used for the weeks leading up to Christmas, but the word itself has the connotation of something or someone arriving. It could be the coming of or change in seasons; so, the advent of Spring. It could also mean the coming of a new monarch or political leader. It is for this reason that the Christian Church has used the word "advent" to describe the weeks leading up to Christmas; the time of year that we celebrate and remember the coming of God in the form of man through the birth of Jesus Christ.
When we think about the arrival of change, there are many different feelings that can be associated. Some people fear change; while others revel in it. Some people go with the flow and really don't give much attention to change; while others eagerly anticipate something new. (I think that it is safe to say that the world over anticipates the coming of the new year; putting 2020 behind us.) This anticipation is what we remember and commemorate during the Christmas Advent season. We remember how the prophets in the Old Testament eagerly anticipated the coming of the Messiah.
The four weeks leading up to Christmas is usually symbolized by Christmas with the lighting of candles each Sunday. The first Sunday starts with the Prophet Candle, the candle of Hope. This is because the prophets in the Old Testament had hope for the coming Savior. The second Sunday has the lighting of the Bethlehem Candle. This candle usually is associated with Love, but also has been associated with Faith. This is because we remember the love of God shown to the world the night Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The third Sunday we light the Shepherd's Candle, the candle of Joy. This is because we remember the shepherds who were the first recorded people to hear the good news of Jesus's birth by the host of angels and the shepherds were filled with such joy at the news that they left the fields and sought out this baby. The fourth Sunday we light the Angelic Candle, the candle of Peace. This is to remember the message of the angels throughout the Christmas Story. The angel Gabriel speaking to Zachariah, Mary and Joseph; each time telling them to have peace as the Messiah will soon come. And then we come to today. Traditionally on Christmas Day is when the final candle is lite to remember the birth of the Christ child.
As I was preparing this letter, it struck me how similar our time is now in the world, to the time Jesus was born into. And, so it seems, I was not the only one to have this revelation. I have actually heard a few different people mention these similarities. Both time periods were filled with economic strife, political unrest and uncertainty of what the future held. But, after a long time waiting and hoping and having faith that the Messiah would come, the Jewish people were able to experience the love, joy and peace of the first Christmas night.
Many have called this year "chaotic" and even, "unprecedented"; I have come to refer to this year as "unforeseen". A lot of horrible things have happened this year; but, think of all the wonderful things that have also happened. We are a weary people, the human race. This year has taken a lot out of us. But, in the midst of it; we have bonded together and found new ways to express ourselves. And we have hope that next year will be different.
This Christmas, the Weary World rejoices as Christians around the globe spend time remembering Jesus Christ. So, now back to the difficult question I asked at the beginning. "What has the Church ever done for you?" Do you have an answer? Is it hard to come up with one or do you have a long list that just rolls off the tongue? The Christian Church is the Body of Christ here on earth. During this Advent Season it may be easier for some to be able to answer the question, "What has Christ ever done for you?", but if we are the Body of Christ, shouldn't it also be easy for people to readily answer "What has the Church ever done for you?"
I don't wish to leave you here on a down note. The Christmas season is filled with hope and joy, love and peace, happy times and memories. But, we also should remember that though we are rejoicing, we are still weary from this year; and many out there are hurting. Let us, as a global Church, be the light that this world needs to get through these difficult times. Let us reflect the love that God has for the world and provide hope to a world that desperately needs it. As we eagerly await the Advent of Christ's second coming; let us not give up the excitement that should come with that anticipation. Be like little children across the globe will be this Christmas; filled with anticipation and bursting with excitement at being able to open presents. Our hope is secure in Christ's sacrifice on the cross and we eagerly await His return. Come Lord Jesus Come; and Come, let us adore Him.
Merry Christmas and May God be with you in the coming year.